Lump on elbow


A bulge on the elbow is any form of protrusion on the joint that connects the lower and upper arm.

In most cases it is an accumulation of fluid, which in turn can have various causes. As a rule, bumps on the elbow are harmless and go away without special treatment. Long-standing bumps should be examined by a doctor. The same applies to severe complaints. In a few cases there is a disease that should be treated promptly and specifically.


There are two very common causes of a bump on the elbow and others that are rare.
Most often, a bump occurs on the elbow as a result of an injury, for example if you fall or hit your arm violently. The tissue is crushed and then fluid is stored. If a blood vessel was also injured in the injury, a bruise, also called a bruise, may develop.
The second common cause of a bump on the elbow is inflammation of a bursa. These tissues, which serve as pressure pads in large joints, can become inflamed as a result of frequent irritation such as when playing tennis. Inflammation of the joint itself also occurs, for example, as part of a rheumatic disease.
Rare causes of bumps on the elbow are benign or malignant growths, with malignant disease only being present in extremely rare cases.

Bursitis on the elbow

Bursitis is one of the most common causes of a bump on the elbow. This is usually very painful and can mean that the arm can no longer be bent properly. The bump occurs when one of the bursa in the elbow joint becomes infected. This normally serves to cushion and protect the joint parts and tendons. Inflammation is often the result of overload.
It is treated by resting, taking care of yourself and cooling, and usually resolves on its own. In the case of recurrent bursitis on the elbow, the affected bursa may have to be removed by a minor surgical procedure.

More on this topic on our website Bursitis on the elbow

Bump on the elbow after a fall

In most cases, a bump on the elbow occurs after a fall. If you fall back or try to catch yourself with your arms, it is easy to hit your elbow.

Similar to the skull or the shin bone, for example, the bones there are only protected by a thin layer of skin and subcutaneous fatty tissue. In the event of an injury, such as a fall, this tissue is crushed and damaged. As a result, more tissue water is deposited on the affected area, which leads to the formation of the visible and palpable bump. If a blood vessel is injured, there is also a bleeding in the form of a bruise. Bumps on the elbow after a fall are usually harmless and resolve within a week.
In the case of severe symptoms and restricted mobility, a doctor should be consulted to rule out a broken bone.

Also inform yourself about: Pain in the elbow

Concomitant symptoms

Depending on the cause, various accompanying symptoms can occur with a bump on the elbow.
If it is the result of an injury from a shock or a fall, pain usually occurs, which occurs particularly when the arm is bent and extended. In addition, a bruise can form as a sign of hemorrhage, which changes its color from green to yellow after a few days.
If an inflammation of a bursa, for example, is the cause of the bump, the accompanying symptoms are usually throbbing pain and reddening and overheating of the bump. In addition, there is often a pain-related restriction of mobility. Benign growths, such as lipoma (fatty tissue growth), can also be responsible for a bump on the elbow and are typically without accompanying symptoms.

You might also be interested in this topic: Symptoms of a lipoma


In order to make a diagnosis of a bump on the elbow, specific questions by the doctor in conversation with the patient and a physical examination of the affected area are most important and in most cases already sufficient.
The doctor will ask, among other things, how long the bump has existed and whether there was a trigger for it, such as a fall or excessive strain on the arm at work or in leisure time. It can also be significant if there have been bumps on the elbow. During the examination, the bump is examined first. Significant redness or a bruise can provide clues for the diagnosis. In addition, the examiner can gain further information about the most likely cause of the bump on the elbow by touching the consistency and mobility.
Usually after these steps the diagnosis can be made and treatment initiated. A further examination, for example using ultrasound or blood tests in the laboratory, is only indicated in exceptional cases.

Also read our article: Tendonitis in rheumatism


Which treatment is indicated for a bump on the elbow depends on the cause of the swelling. Often no special or only supportive therapy is required, as the lump will recede on its own.
If this has occurred, for example as a result of a fall, the regression of the bulge can be promoted by cooling the arm and temporarily elevating it. In addition, the arm should be spared and excessive strain should be avoided.
In the case of bursitis, the measures mentioned are also indicated. If the pain is severe, it may also be advisable to take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever from time to time. In the case of complicated or frequent inflammations, the affected bursa may have to be removed by surgery.

Joint inflammation due to other causes sometimes requires targeted treatment. If this occurs as part of an underlying rheumatic disease, only therapy with medication will lead to long-term improvement. An inflammation caused by bacteria, which can also lead to a large bump on the elbow, must be treated as quickly as possible with a small surgical procedure to relieve the strain. Bumps that persist for a long time, do not change and do not cause any discomfort, on the other hand, do not need to be treated in most cases.

More information on this topic:

  • Treatment of tendinitis
  • How do you treat a bruise?


In most cases, bumps on the elbow are short-lived. Since it is mostly the result of an injury, the resulting water retention recedes within a few days until the bump disappears. The duration of such a bump can be shortened if the arm is spared for some time and occasionally cooled. Bursitis, another common cause of a bump on the elbow, usually only lasts for a few days to a few weeks, so that the bump does not last long here either. In some cases, however, new tendinitis or even chronic tendinitis occurs again and again, so that a bump can be present for several weeks.
In general, bumps on the elbow that persist for a period of two weeks or that get bigger and bigger should be clarified by a medical examination.